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Vol 21, No. 10, October 2017   |   Issue PDF view/purchase
Mobile healthcare — Solutions help healthcare providers keep operations running smoothly
Hospitals alarm alerts, which started out as a solution to patient care, is becoming a problem on its own with almost 64 percent of received alerts being false alarms. This greatly hampers productivity and patient safety. George Pepes says hospitals need intelligent, healthcare-centric, integrated, event-driven care team communications tools to help them serve patients’ needs more efficiently and effectively.

Those working in healthcare will recognize that time is one of the most valuable resources in the industry. Faced with a dearth of manpower, healthcare providers are constantly in search of solutions that can minimize time spent on administrative work and maximize time allocated for patient-care.

Cloud-based healthcare solutions such as electronic healthcare records (EHR) are increasingly being used in Asia, in place of paper-based healthcare solutions. Singapore, for example, rolled out the National Electronic Health Record system in 2011, which allows patient healthcare records to be shared across the entire healthcare system. Elsewhere in Asia, staff from Mary Johnston Hospital in Manila can access information and work on the go, leveraging a combination of cloud-based EHR solution called HarmoniMD and mobile-enabled healthcare solutions. Hospitals are increasingly turning to such solutions to help their clinicians reduce alarm fatigue, keep up to date on patient needs, and collaborate instantly with the care team.

False alerts are overwhelming healthcare staff

In an experiment carried out by researchers on behalf of the Korean Society of Medical Informatics, 2,184 alarm alerts from 48 patients were documented within a span of 48 hours in the Intensive Care Units (ICU). A staggering 1,394 were false alarms, equating to almost 64 percent of all alerts received. What started as a solution to patient care has become a problem on its own – nurses are too busy to attend to all alerts and they have no way of distinguishing the false alarms from genuine issues.

The fatigue this creates among clinicians is a serious issue that hampers productivity, job satisfaction and, most importantly, patient safety. When a nurse spends valuable time responding to a false alarm, that nurse is inevitably taken away from looking after critical patient care needs.

To minimize the negative impact of alarm fatigue and maximize the effectiveness of patient care, healthcare providers need tools that offer alert information – what happened and the seriousness with a quick glance. This helps nurses prioritize patient needs and reduce clinical interruptions. Information becomes easier to access and gives real-time insight into which patient needs are most urgent – and which can wait. The caregivers also need to be able to instantly communicate with other members of the care team during a crisis.

That is why hospitals are turning to mHealth analytics platforms that supply contextually smart notifications directly to the clinician’s healthcare-certified mobile device. This allows them to make better snap judgements within a short period of time.

Enabling patient care with more information

A Kaiser Permanente study looking at how healthcare professionals distribute their time found that nurses typically spend up to 35 percent of their time on documentation, 20 percent on team communications, and only 19 percent on patient care activities.

Additional studies show that a nurse’s job directly influences the patients’ well-being; simply increasing the time a nurse spends at a patient’s bedside can boost a patient’s recovery rate. The goal for the healthcare industry is to decrease the time it takes for nurses to attend to laborious administrative tasks and devote more hours to quality patient care.

The use of advanced alarm management software and healthcare-certified handheld mobile devices, helps medical staff to instantly access relevant medical records, so that they can spend less time on documentation and communication – and more time at the patient’s bedside.

Today’s alarm management solutions can deliver more than just patient event notifications and secure text messaging - they can combine actionable alarm and alert notifications containing relevant patient data with instant, collaborative, patient-centric communications, all on a single platform. Armed with this improved situational awareness and intelligence, caregivers can prioritize actions and react more efficiently to determine the right treatment plan for their patient.

When nurses or caregivers receive a medical alarm notification, they can instantly access critical clinical information about that patient, such as heart rate, the reason for admittance, and lab results. They can also communicate with the patient’s on-call healthcare team via a secure text or phone call. This not only allows a caregiver to instantly initiate a secure conversation but also reduces the chance of communication errors because relevant alarm data and patient context are included within that exchange. As a result, healthcare providers have all the information and resources they need to provide the best patient care possible.

Building an mHealth strategy that works for you

What should healthcare providers look for in a solution? First, they need to have software and devices that can seamlessly integrate with their existing EHR systems. They should not only test and certify a device, but also select one that can be easily configured by their IT department. Mobile devices that cannot be centrally maintained nor upgraded put additional strain on the technical staff and can reduce the efficacy of the solution.

In addition, mobile devices should be configured to the specific needs of healthcare environments. For example, they need to be composed of medical-grade plastics that prevent hospital-acquired infections. They need to be able to handle the leading disinfectants and wipes typically used in a healthcare environment, which can number in the thousands. Some devices are also designed with medical-grade power supplies that are certified with the “IEC 60601-1” specification to meet the needs of healthcare providers.

To prevent alarm fatigue and increase clinician satisfaction, hospitals need intelligent, healthcare-centric, integrated, event-driven care team communications tools to help them serve patients’ needs more efficiently and effectively. The ultimate goal is to turn alarms into what they were originally intended to be - a way to inform the clinician of an episode that needs to be addressed in a timely manner.

About the Author

George Pepes
Healthcare Solutions Marketing Lead, Zebra Technologies, Asia Pacific

George Pepes is the healthcare solutions marketing lead at Zebra Technologies for the Asia Pacific region. George has more than 17 years’ experience in automatic identification and communication technologies including mobile printing and computing, data capture, RFID and the Internet Things (IoT), specifically working with various healthcare providers throughout Australia to implement solutions providing enhanced patient identification resulting in the reduction of medical errors.

Having worked directly with customers and channel partners, George brings market know-how of how technologies can be applied to help hospitals reduce errors, improve efficiency and improve patient safety.

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